“The kerosene-free scheme has only resulted in stoppage of fuel supply to me. It has been used as a ruse by the Food and Civil Supplies Department officials to deny us the oil we used to get through the ration system,’’ rues Ram Dularay Ashray, a resident of Lal Gumbad camp in South Delhi and a person of limited means.
Ashray, who worked as a part-time gardener and household help till recently, has no job and a family of four to support, and now he has to run around to find a way to get his kerosene supply restored, at least till the time he gets a gas connection.
“It was in November 2012 that I had applied for a gas connection under the Kerosene-Free Delhi scheme. But till now, I have not got my connection,’’ he says. Incidentally, under the scheme the applicants are promised a gas connection within 15 days. “I am jobless now and my monthly fuel cost has shot up. While we were getting kerosene at just Rs.14.83 per litre earlier, now I have to shell out between Rs.30 and Rs.50 per litre. But for my wife Sheila, who took up a job recently, our family would have starved to death.’’
Ashray is not the only one suffering, unscrupulous Food and Civil Supplies Department officials have managed to twist the provisions of the Kerosene-Free Delhi scheme to suit their own needs.As Amrita Johri of the Satark Nagrik Sangathan put it: “Soon after the Delhi Government announced the scheme last year and the media covered it, depot owners used it to project that kerosene would now no longer be available to those who had applied for LPG connections. This was farthest from the truth. Actually under the scheme, the kerosene supply should not stop till the time the gas connection is provided to the consumer.’’
Anjali Mondal, a resident of Balmiki Camp, Begumpur, said her kerosene supply was stopped without any reason about a year ago. “They did not tell me why. Since then we have been purchasing gas from the open market at the rate of Rs.115 per kg. I normally get a 4 kg cylinder for Rs.460. In a month, we now end up spending over Rs.800 on fuel alone,’’ she says. Anjali, who possess a ‘red’ Antyodaya Anna Yojana card, said when the Kerosene-Free Delhi scheme was launched, she applied for it in October 2012. “But so far we have not got a connection and are completely dependent on gas purchased from the open market for our cooking needs.’’ Many of the residents of the jhuggi clusters and other colonies have not been properly informed about the scheme. “When I went to my kerosene depot, the person there told me that I should now apply for a gas connection. But where? To that he had no answer. So after visiting six different offices around Malviya Nagar and Saket, I finally reached my office concerned near the Chirag Dilli drain petrol pump. They gave me a form which I got filled from my ration office and deposited it. But so far the gas supply has not come,’’ says Shanti Devi, who resides at Indira Camp.
Incidentally, while they are being deprived of their rightful kerosene supply by the depot operators, most of these applicants appear thankful for at least being able to procure kerosene, even at a premium, for keeping their stoves burning.
“In the market kerosene oil sells at Rs.50 a bottle which has just about 900 ml of oil. But my booth operator gave me a can of five litres for just Rs.150,’’ says an ‘indebted’ Ashray. In the past couple of weeks though, the number of applicants who have got their gas connections has risen. Recently Delhi Food and Civil Supplies Minister Haroon Yusuf told the Delhi Assembly that 63,000 kitchens have been made smoke-free under the scheme.
Since then, the number had risen to 75,546 by April 5.
But teething troubles for the applicants still remain. As Dashrathi of Lal Gumbad, a Below Poverty Line (yellow) ration card holder, who makes a living by letting out two rooms in her house, says: “When I applied for gas, I did not get kerosene for three months. I ran around a lot and finally discovered that the ration office had stocked up all the forms in an almirah and was not forwarding them to the gas agency. Then I created a ruckus and got my form processed and also filed a Right to Information application to know the status of my application, which led to its processing and my getting the gas connection last month.’’
But now most of those who have got a gas connection do not know how to get a refill. “We have not been provided the blue book which was promised under the scheme; the gas agency staff said come later to collect it,’’ says Dashrathi.